Learning to Race Uncomfortably

VictoryI have a confession to make- I’m too comfortable with running comfortably, especially in a race. I’m trying to change this and in 2013 I will change this. I’m a pretty competitive person but since I only started running a year ago racing is totally new ground for me. However, slowly but surely I’m starting to get faster during my training runs and I’m trying to translate that speed to racing.

My problem is I get kind of lazy. I know, a race is about the last place you want to get lazy but I hold back when I know I have more to push. I make excuses like, “well, I’m not really ‘racing’ this race,” or “well, I don’t want to get hurt so I’ll just stay at this comfortable pace.” I think I make these excuses because I’ve always been more concerned with finishing a distance than the time my Garmin reads.

However, now that my paces during my “easy” runs are consistently sub-9:00/miles I know when it comes time to race, I have the energy and endurance to push that pace even harder. I like to call it, learning how to run uncomfortably and part of that lesson is realizing races are much different than training runs. You’re supposed to pace yourself but push yourself too. You’re not supposed to be able to talk. You’re supposed to hurt a little bit because you’re working you butt off to get a good time.

In an effort to learn how to push myself, I’ve been trying to do at least one speed workout a week, whether it be intervals or a tempo. A few of my speedy coworkers asked me to come to mid-week intervals with them one week. Scared, and extremely nervous, I conceded and thought I’ll just do my own thing and if I can’t finish it so be it. Well when I got there I thought to myself, oh no, if I’m going to do this I’m going to do the whole damn thing just like everyone else- and you know what? I did!

This workout was HARD. I started off with a 2-mile warm up at an easy pace just to get the blood flowing. Then, our coach, Budd Coats, had us do a workout that would break the heart of any slowpoke like myself. We did the following:

200m, 400m, 600m, 200m, 200m, 400m, 600m

What. Yes, that happened.

But you know what? I lived and my pace was a solid 7:24 for the entire thing! So a few weeks after that I decided to push myself and see what I was really made of. I had promised Michele, of NYC Running Mama dot com, I would participate in her virtual Race for Recovery 5-K. What better time to test my new speedy legs than a race where no one’s watching? Well it worked and I busted out a 24:14 3.1 miles! A 5-K PR by almost three whole minutes! I was dead at the end but felt amazing! I finally learned how to really push it even when my lungs, legs and mind were trying to get the best of me.

But, as always, it’s important to remember not to push yourself beyond your limits- because we all have limits. While my fast may not be the same as another runner’s fast, it’s fast for me and for now, I’m just trying to find my limits.

Mini race recap: Wrentham Wroad Wrace

Me at the Wrentham Wroad Wrace!

Earlier this week I found out there was going to be a 5K literally 5 minutes from my house in Wrentham, Mass. called the Wrentham Wroad Wrace. Of course I immediately signed up because usually I have to travel for races but this one was so close!

As I said it was just a 5K so nothing too crazy but it was really great to get out there and race. It’s hard to believe but I actually haven’t “raced” many road races. I’ve done a few since I started running in March but I can literally count them on one hand. This is not OK, I realize this. While I went into this race just wanting to have fun and get to know some of the local runners I came away from it with so much more.

Pre-race prep the night before the race.

I love to run! But I also really enjoy racing. I love all of it from the pre-race prep and dynamic stretching to the gun going off at the start line and the cheers at the finish. Nothing better. This race also made me realize the only way to get better at racing is to race often. There’s such a science behind where to line up at the start and how much water to drink, what to bring on race day and how to pass other runners without being obnoxious. And frankly, the only way to get better at these details of racing is to get out there and race.

While I absolutely love my long runs and going for longer distances, I think running these shorter, faster distances are the only way to improve on racing techniques. I know I’m never going to be a sub-3 marathoner (unless I’m talking about my Paul Ryan time) and I’m fine with that because more than racing and PRs and time, I just love running. To me, my end goal is to be a runner for life no matter how fast or how slow. If that means not racing for a few months, or racing every weekend I’m OK either way. All I know is today was a great race, and despite awfully high temperatures and unbearable humidity, the camaraderie of the other runners is really what makes it special.

Ready to run!

As far as my finish time, well I made a huge racing mistake here because I started my RunKeeper before I got to the start line and forgot to stop it at the finish line. These are the kinds of things you can only learn by racing often. Hopefully they’ll put up the results soon so stay tuned!

If you raced this weekend share it in the comments section below! What did you race? How did it go?